Home > Book Review, Philosophy > Notes on Heidegger: Truth.

Notes on Heidegger: Truth.

Now that we have briefly, and perhaps clumsily looked at how Heidegger might have discussed Dasein, we will continue our discussion in regards to his views on epistemology, truth, and so forth. Again we will be drawing from The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006 as our source of information, if only because these are preliminary notes for an upcoming assignment, for which the assignment question I think I am choosing is “Compare the theories of meaning of three philosophers discussed in this unit and justify why you chose those three.”. I similarly have Cambridge additions to read on Wittgenstein and Foucault, these two, coupled with Heidegger are the three philosophers with whom I will be focusing on. The Cambridge Companions will be extra curricular readings to help me understand the source material, which I will be addressing in the assignments.

Let us begin with a look at some definitions, David Couzens Hoy’s chapter entitled ‘Heidegger and the hermeneutic turn’ gives us a look at Heidegger’s thought process here, he states that Heidegger distinguishes between two senses of truth. (1) Is the ordinary philosophical sense of truth, in that an assertion uncovers or discovers some fact about the world, Heidegger describes this sense of truth as “being about things that do not have the character of Dasein.” (Couzens Hoy, p. 183, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006). Heidegger uses the term “discoverdness” to demarcate this position. (2) The contrasting term to (1) is labelled “disclosedness” by Heidegger and refers to context; it is within a total context that understanding opens up. This view does not only consist of making assertions about the world but also of:

… grasping the entire mode of being-in-the-world. Understanding grasps the world as such, without which the discovery of particular features of the world would not be possible. However understanding grasps not only the world, but also Dasein’s way of being in the world. So an understanding of the world is also a self understanding. (Couzens Hoy, p. 183-184, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006)

These terms might need a bit of unpacking, to Heidegger disclosure involves the world and Dasein at the same time,  making Dasein’s understanding of the world congruent with its understanding of self. Hoy states that this ‘self-interpretation’ “thus does not discover facts about the properties of mental substance or a noumenal self, but discloses how Dasein has dealt with and is dealing with the question or “issue” of its own existence.” (Couzens Hoy, p. 183-184, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006) To Heidegger then understanding becomes more than the discovery of facts about the world,  that although discovery is necessary to human activity, it mystifies the “dimension of disclosure”. By making understanding only about one fact after another would not generate significant, or intelligible  understanding of the world.

Moving on, however, Mark A. Wrathall in his chapter ‘Truth and the essence of truth in Heidegger’s thought’ states that Heidegger viewed the nature of truth as having a basis in “unconcealment”:

… Heidegger writes, “the matter of thought.” that is, “what is first of all to be thought, [but] to be thought as released from the perspective of the metaphysical representation of ‘truth’ in the sense of correctness.” (Wrathall, p. 241, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006)

Heidgger’s view of truth is twofold, it is a critique of traditional accounts of truth while also being an inquiry into “the unconcealment that is prior to truth as correctness”. (p. 241) Critically, Heidegger believes that the philosophical tradition has misunderstood the relationship between “intentional contents and the world.” (p. 241) The critique of propositional truth however was not Heidegger’s focus, he only used it as a springboard to more interesting issues (to him) that come from the question of propositional truth, such as the nature of language and the “reality or mind-independence from the world.”

This is because the philosophical discussion of truth can be perused only against the background of assumptions about the nature of mind (in particular how mental states and their derivatives like linguistic meaning can be so constituted as to be capable of being true or false), and the nature of the world (in particular, how the world can be so constituted as to make mental states and their derivatives true). (Wrathall, p. 242, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006)

Heidegger’s discussion of “unconcealment” being the essence of truth, then is motivated by a recognition that we have to see truth in the context of an “opening up of the world” (p. 242) or rather the context of an openness to the world and a “comportment toward things in the world that is more fundamental than thinking or speaking about them.” (242) This is an analysis of the ground of propositional truth, not rather a redefinition of such.

Before we go further it is important to note that Heidegger does accept traditional theories of correspondence (meaning: “an assertion is true if what it means and say corresponds with the matter about which it asserts” p. 242) only insofar as they are the right starting point for an analysis of truth, it is instead the grounds of the possibility of conforming to something that Heidegger is challenging. Or to use Hoy’s term, Heidegger is using (2) to challenge (1).

Heidegger argues, states Wrathall that because propositions are mere representations, and are thought of as ideal entities, it has led traditional philosophy to the view “correspondence as a relationship in which a representation mirrors or pictures reality.” (p. 243) Moreover, to Heidegger attention to this view could have helped the philosophical tradition explain problems in propositional truth (such as in what sense an ideal entity, like the content of a belief or assertion, can be said to correspond with a real state of affairs, like a fact in the world). Heidegger wants to be rid of a representationalist view of the nature of propositional states, so that he may find out in what “does a correspondence of thoughts and words with the world consist”. Heidegger argues that a phenomenological examination of how assertions work demonstrates the vacuity of representational theory.

By reflection on our experience in hearing an assertion, we recognize that we are never directed toward or by means of a representational content, bur rather directly to the being indicated by the assertion. Assertions and beliefs do not represent beings int he world, they present them; they are a way of being oriented within the world so that a state of affairs can show up. (Wrathall, p. 244, The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 2006)

Heidegger argues further that this view of assertions has implications that can be discovered by looking “the context of demonstration”, which is the context in which we verify the truth of a proposition. Wrathall states quickly that this is not to be confused with the verificationist view held among pragmatists and some analytical philosophers, no, Heidegger’s view is not that the verification of an assertion determines it’s truth, but rather that “in the phenomenological context of demonstration, the relationship of correspondence must become visible”. (p. 244) The phenomenological analysis is used as an alternative to the conceptual one, because it allows one to “catch sight” of the correspondence itself – through this approach we can discover that an assertions truth consists of “orienting us to the state of affairs just as it is in itself.” (p. 244) This allows for a confirmation of the correspondence relationship between the assertion and the world not being mediated by representation at all and thus “cannot consist in the representation picturing or mirroring the state of affairs.” (p. 244) Assertions work by indicating (or being toward the things themselves) in this picture, rather than representing them. The example Wrathall gives to demonstrate this is Heidegger’s thinking is the assertion: “the picture on the wall is hanging askew”, we should confirm that this assertion corresponds to the way things are by “percei[ving] the picture hanging askew on the wall.” We are directed to a state of affairs in the world by the assertion, and this is why it works, not only when we set out to confirm it, but also when we merely entertain the assertion in thought (as we have the real picture in our minds, and nothing else).

This is only the most briefest of pictures on what Heidegger has to say on epistemology and truth, but for now I want to get into addressing his actual work (now I’ve read some chapters from Being and time, and his lecture Time and Being). After that we will be looking at Wittgenstein from chapters in the Cambridge Companion and from Philosophical Investigations.

Reference

Couzens Hoy, D. (2006). ‘’Heidegger and the hermeneutic turn’, in C, B Guignon (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, New York, New York. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 183-184.

Wrathall, M,A. (2006). ‘Truth and the essence of truth in Heidegger’s thought’ in C, B Guignon (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, New York, New York. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 241, 242, 243, 244.

 

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